Flagging McIlroy eyes big finish
The European Tour heads to its end-of-season finale in Dubai with the oldest winner in its history and an exhausted world No 1 hoping to rediscover his touch after failing to fire in Hong Kong.
Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez, one of the vice-captains on the victorious European Ryder Cup team, triumphed at the $2 million UBS Hong Kong Open on Sunday for a third time – at the tender age of 48 years and 318 days.
But it was a different story for pre-tournament favourite and defending champion Rory McIlroy, 23, who was by then already sunning himself on a Dubai beach after failing to make the cut in Hong Kong.
The Northern Irishman's girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, posted a photograph on Twitter of him dozing on the sand. He had said in Hong Kong that he felt "lethargic".
McIlroy has already won the Race to Dubai – the European money list –after topping the PGA Tour money list. But he admitted after tumbling out of the Hong Kong Open that he was badly in need of some rest.
"If I was completely fresh I wouldn't have been making the mistakes I was making out there," he said after his disappointing two-day five-over-par score at Fanling spelled an early end to his Hong Kong tournament.
McIlroy, who won his second Major at this year's PGA Championship, will be determined to end a draining but hugely successful season with a bang at the $8 million World Tour Championship starting on Thursday, featuring the top 60 players on the European Tour.
Jimenez is 29th on the European money list after his record-breaking achievement in Hong Kong, where he dispelled any impression he planned to pack in the game any time soon.
The cigar-smoking Spaniard, the joint leader heading into the final round, hit a flawless 65 for his 19th European Tour win.
Third place for Marcus Fraser was enough to propel the Australian to the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
But it was the colourful Jimenez's day.
Asked if he had ever had doubts that he would win again, he said: "No. Having said that, you see the new guns coming up, so yes, it's more difficult to win, because it's more and more competitive.
"But I was still doing well, I was still hitting the ball well, I was still competitive, I still have the motivation and I still like what I am doing.
"I'm the oldest winner now, at 48, and in a couple of months I'll be 49. But it's nice, even when you are old – and I have some white hair now – you can keep the motivation inside.
"I still enjoy it and I still feel competitive. The day I don't, it's time to say goodbye."
The Hong Kong Open will not be on the schedule for the European Tour next season but will return for the opening stages of the 2014 Tour.